Updated on Tuesday at 11:20 p.m.
By Brian Hews
A formal complaint was filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Monday alleging that Long Beach mayoral candidate Robert Garcia recruited 15 to 20 non-voters to cast absentee ballots illegally in the recent April primary election.
Attorney Brian T. Hildreth, who represents candidate Damon Dunn in the campaign against Garcia, sent District Attorney Jackie Lacey a two-page affidavit alleging that nearly two dozen people who are active in the emerging Cambodian community were not legally eligible to participate in the election.
Hews Media Group-Community Newspapers obtained a copy of the complaint letter on Monday and published its contents early Tuesday morning,
The complaint claims that Garcia and his campaign “admitted hiring a bus to transport 15-20 individuals from the Cambodian center to the Long Beach City Clerk’s office to vote, and that when these individuals arrived by bus at the City Clerk’s office, the City Clerk determined that a number of the individuals were not registered to vote.”
Hildreth claims that the situation caused “commotion as the individuals, or persons assisting them, asserted they should be allowed to cast provisional ballots or be registered on the spot and allowed to cast provisional ballots.”
Hildreth also pointed to recent published press reports about this situation in his letter to Lacey.
“We are informed that the issue that caused the City Clerk to refer the matter to the Long Beach City Attorney was that a number of the individuals were observed by the City Clerk or other officials in the City Clerk’s office having the names of two candidates written in ink on their hands,” Hildreth claimed.
The two candidate’s names were mayoral hopeful Robert Garcia and City Attorney candidate James Johnson.
The complaint is beginning to make its way through the legal process, Hildreth claims. “We understand that the City Clerk referred this matter to the City Attorney, who reviewed it and referred it to the Long Beach City Prosecutor,” he states in his correspondence to Lacey.
Hildreth said he wants Lacey to “conduct a thorough and complete investigation of the matter, and that such an investigation should include interviews of the individuals involved to determine how the two candidates’ names came to be written on their hands.”
The Hildreth and Dunn campaigns also want to learn if the Cambodian community members who participated in the early voting “were allegedly offered any consideration to vote for the two candidates, and whether they had been allegedly coached or prompted to say anything about the circumstances of the incident, either before or after it occurred.”
The Dunn campaign also sent copies of the complaint to the US Attorney for the Central District of California and to the California Secretary of State’s Office in Sacramento.
The Hildreth and Dunn campaigns also said that they have additional information about other incidents that took place in the primary voting campaign involving the Garcia campaign.
“There were other incidents concerning possible irregularities reported that also raise concerns about the integrity of elections in Long Beach that should also be investigated by a neutral third party,” Hildreth said.
He also claims that “widespread electioneering by (Robert) Garcia campaign workers within 100 feet of polling places likely interfered with voters attempting to exercise their right to vote.”
“The integrity of the election process is paramount in any public election. Mr. Garcia’s actions, if true, raise the specter of tampering with voting which is a serious charge, not made lightly here. A thorough investigation should be conducted to ascertain the facts related to these reported incidents, to allay concerns about the integrity of the electoral process and if necessary to deter improper or illegal activities that cause the public to lose confidence in the electoral process,” Hildreth concluded in his complaint to Lacey.
On Tuesday, the Garcia campaign issued the following statement to Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper regarding the matter.
“Our campaign is proud that we have energized registered voters from across Long Beach to get involved in the electoral process. We have always done so within the confines of the law. The clerk’s office has done a great job and we look forward to the next election,” said Garcia campaign consultant Eric Hacopian.
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